Heath Walker Leads Opening Rounds Of Vans El Ponto Loco

Photo courtesy ASP/Hilleman

Carlsbad, California (Wednesday, September 03, 2008) – The Inaugural Vans El Ponto Loco presented by Sun Diego kicked off today in clean two-to-four foot (1 metre conditions). The Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP) World Qualifying Series (WQS) 2-Star event saw the completion of Round 1 and the first eight heats of Round 2.

The Vans El Ponto Loco marks the sixth of nine ASP WQS events held in North America, offering valuable ratings points to all surfers striving towards qualification for the coveted ASP World Tour. Today's early rounds offered no shortage of excitement, with standout performances from Heath Walker (Paradise, AUS/Carlsbad, CA), 33, Ted Navarro (Huntington Beach, CA), 28, Rylan McCart (Melbourne Beach, FL), 22, and Brandon Guilmette (Huntington Beach, CA), 25. Each surfer posted their high scores on the lefts on offer at Ponto, Beach.

Walker dropped the day's highest single wave score of a near-perfect 9.60 out of a possible 10 by issuing a series of committed backhand snaps on a lefthander in his Round 1 heat. The regular-footer followed up with a 7.75 on another left for the day's highest heat total of 17.35 out of a possible 20 point score, placing his fellow competitors in a combination situation.

"I'm pretty stoked," Walker said. "I was a little nervous at the start and I was sitting on the inside and I saw there were a couple of sets coming through and I'm pretty confident on my backhand. I knew if I got a wave with a little wall I could just go through my routine and that little wave came and just kept walling up, so I just kept hitting it."

Walker is originally from Australia and now calls Ponto his local break after relocating to Carlsbad. The Australian was thrilled about his standout performance at his new home break and is excited about the new ASP WQS event location.

"I live here in Ponto and surf here every day and this is the break that I call home now, so it's pretty exciting for me," Walker said. "It's just good to have waves and I'm stoked that there's an event in San Diego."

McCart, who has recently moved to Dana Point, California from Florida, used his familiarity of the typically windy conditions on offer in Florida to his advantage as the wind increased this afternoon. The goofy-footer posted the day's second highest heat total of 15.25 out of a possible 20 point score with an explosive forehand attack on two lefts to advance into Round 3.

"I was watching it for a while and it looked pretty bad," McCart said. "But, I saw Brett (Barley) in the other heat and he was sitting on the inside and to the right and I thought I'd sit there. The conditions ended up feeling like fun Florida. I felt right at home out there with the choppy faces and I've got a really good board right now, so I'm stoked."

Guilmette posted an impressive 9.25 out of a possible 10 in his Round 2 heat, the second highest single wave score of the day. Guilmette earned the high score on a long lefthander, which offered maximum scoring potential.

"There's still a couple of fun waves," Guilmette said. "It's tough with the rip current sucking out. That makes it really hard out there, but I just got lucky. That pretty good left came to me and I think everyone was a little too deep, so I was able to pick off the corner. The wave kept giving me good sections to float over and I got that really good turn in on that end section."

The Huntington Beach local surfed Ponto in his amateur career and put his knowledge of the wave to good use today for his heat win.

"I've surfed this wave a few times in my amateur career," Guilmette said. "They used to have events here and I like this wave."

Navarro, who advanced through two heats today by posting one of the highest heat totals of 14.60 out of a possible 20 point score in Round 1, put on a solid show despite the windy conditions on offer in the afternoon. Navarro, also a Huntington Beach local, will look to carry his momentum on to Round 3.

"The waves are super hard here," Navarro said. "It's pretty tough, so I'm just stoked to get through a couple of heats. I've surfed here a few times before, but it's not one of the places I usually come to surf when I'm down here, but I'm stoked to have made my heats and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

Tomorrow will see today's standouts tackle the event's top seeds with the completion of Round 2 and Round 3. Day two of competition will begin at 8 a.m. standard time.

For all of the LIVE action log on to vanssurf.com/ponto/.

For additional information check out aspworldtour.com or aspnorthamerica.org.

Round of 128: (1st and 2nd advance)
Heat 1: Gabriel Escudero (PRI) 10.50, Jordan Gaudet (USA) 8.75, Chase Newsom (USA) 7.65, Greg Kaplan (USA) 6.55
Heat 2: Matt Meola (USA) 12.60, Michael Dunphy (USA) 12.20, Jeremy Sommerville (USA) 11.85, Corban Campbell (USA) 7.95
Heat 3: Eddie Lester (USA) 12.50, Marshall Alberga (USA) 11.00, Sam McCowan (USA) 4.95, Gianfranco Gasparro (ITA) 3.00
Heat 4: Victor Done (USA) 12.30, Jeff Hurley (USA) 9.25, Jonathan Warren (USA) 5.15, Jake Davi (HAW) 3.60
Heat 5: Manuel Selman (CHL) 11.25, Matt Myers (USA) 9.00, Scott Posner (USA) 8.25, Andres Flores (DOM) 4.45
Heat 6: Ryan Hurley (USA) 13.25, Matt Johnson (USA) 12.25, Sean Hayes (USA) 8.50, Andrew Bennett (USA) 7.60
Heat 7: Ted Navarro (HAW) 14.60, Jason Magallanes (HAW) 10.50, Darren Muschett (PRI) 8.45, Jeshua Stevens (USA) 5.25
Heat 8: Duran Barr (USA) 10.90, Dege O'Connell (HAW) 7.85, , Chad Jackson (HAW) 6.90, Sean Pearson (USA) 5.45
Heat 9: Heath Walker (AUS) 17.35, Alex Ganguli (USA) 10.50, Golden Depesa (HAW) 9.75, Vince Alessi (USA) 8.10
Heat 10: Sean Taylor (USA) 9.85, Nick Skawinski (USA) 6.20, Jason Billings (USA) 4.68, Frank Chenault (USA) 3.25,
Heat 11: David Giddings (USA) 10.40, Riley Metcalf (USA) 8.70, Rick Downes (USA) 6.60, Cody Sammons (USA) 0.50
Heat 12: Johnny Craft (USA) 12.60, Leif Engstrom (USA) 10.05, Alex Gullett (USA) 9.45, Adam Lambert (USA) 6.00
Heat 13: Michel Flores (BRA) 12.60, Austin Smith-Ford (USA) 10.75, Ryan Burch (USA) 9.00, David Price (USA) 3.85
Heat 14: Tom Rezvan (USA) 10.00, Eric Worley (USA) 9.65, Justin Pierson (USA) 3.50, David Post (USA) 3.35
Heat 15: Brett Barley (USA) 10.25, Willie Safreed (USA) 9.25, Brightton Brandenburger (USA) 7.35, Morgan Faulkner (USA) 4.15
Heat 16: Justin Swartz (USA) 14.50, Matt Pagan (USA) 8.55, Danny Hart (USA) 6.95,  Nick Kovak (USA) 5.15

Round of 96: (1st and 2nd advance)

Heat 1: Rylan McCart (USA) 15.25, Dillon Perillo (USA) 11.00, Gabriel Escudero (PRI) 10.50, Michael Dunphy (USA) 6.75
Heat 2: Jordan Gaudet (USA) 9.60, Matt Meola (USA) 8.75, Macy Mullen (HAW) 7.45, Hodel Love (HAW) 6.85
Heat 3: Eddie Lester (USA) 10.00, Scott Hammonds (USA) 10.00, Bud Freitas (USA) 7.75, Jeff Hurley (USA) 6.95
Heat 4: Chris Abad (USA) 13.60, Victor Done (USA) 10.40, Marshall Alberga (USA) 8.00, Thomas Petriken (USA) 4.95
Heat 5: Brandon Guilmette (USA) 15.10, Matt Johnson (USA) 11.50, Manuel Selman (USA) 7.05, Ian Eckberg (USA) 4.40
Heat 6: Micah Mullen (USA) 10.50, Matt Myers (USA) 10.50, Ryan Hurley (USA) 7.75, Shane Murray (USA) 6.75
Heat 7: Dege O'Connell (HAW) 11.25, Ted Navarro (USA) 10.40, Cody Thompson (USA) 9.10, Kyle Kennelly (USA) 7.35
Heat 8: Duran Barr (USA) 14.90, Nat Young (USA) 10.95, Phillip Goold (USA) 7.10, Jason Magallances (USA) 4.55